Mitch Reilly ran.
Down corridor after corridor, never stopping, rarely pausing. They had a few seconds’ lead on the Special Forces behind them, and they would need every split second.
“Marines! Leapfrog!” shouted Adam from the lead. As he said this, he dropped to his knees at a corner, leaned out, and fired a short burst down the corridor. He turned to the next person behind him, Athena, and nodded. Athena ran out into the corridor peered around the far corner, fired a short burst, and nodded to KillerBee, who ran past her and did the same thing before nodding to Reilly. This technique, known as ‘leapfrogging’ helped to ensure that a corridor was safe before they ran out into it.
Reilly ran forward, completed his leapfrog, and nodded to Aphrodite behind him. It was no wonder that the place had so many corners. The whole facility had been designed like a maze; it was easy for an intruder to get lost down here, run into a dead end, and get himself slaughtered.
American hospitality. Nice.
It was during Pancho’s turn, when he was peering around another corner, checking to see if it was clear, when it happened.
An extended burst of gunfire broke out from the corridor Pancho was checking, and it was Pancho’s unusually quick reflexes – even for a trained marine – that saved his head from being blown to bits. He drew his head back, leaned against the wall, and swore.
“How many?” asked Reilly, talking about the new group of enemies.
“Ten, maybe fifteen. Well armed. And good shots too, by the look of it,” replied Pancho, looking at the line of bullet holes on the wall opposite him. Apparently it would be shoot first, ask questions later. “We can’t take them. Not head on.”
“Fuck me,” Aphrodite swore, behind Pancho.
“That can be arranged,” replied Adam, moving past her with quick, measured strides. As Reilly looked at Adam, he saw that all the traces of the boy he had once known were gone. This was not Adam Brewer anymore; this was the Hitman in action. Moving with the cold fluidity of a practiced killer, Hitman came to where Pancho stood. Removing another smoke grenade from his pocket, he lobbed it into the corridor, waited till it went off, and then he – and Pancho – stepped out into the corridor and began firing short bursts at their assailants, who returned fire with gusto. The intensity of the return fire was so intense that Pancho and Hitman could only remain exposed for short seconds at a time or risk being pumped full of holes.
Reilly was so engrossed in the action unfolding in front of him that he almost forgot about the danger behind him. What brought him to his senses was Athena screaming at him, “Poseidon! Behind you!”
In truth, it wasn’t really her scream that alerted Reilly. It was the use of his call-sign – Poseidon – that did it. Athena almost never called Reilly by his call-sign. She always called him ‘Sir’ or ‘Cap’ – even though Reilly was a Lieutenant, not a Captain.
Reilly instinctively dived to one side, even before he turned around, and not a moment too soon, as it turned out. A stream of bullets passed where Reilly had been standing just a split-second before – one of them passed so close to his head, he actually felt the wind! – and slammed into the far wall, narrowly missing Adam.
Reilly rolled off the floor into a crouch, raising his rifle at his assailant, a lone soldier who had apparently been sent to scout ahead. Reilly aimed his rifle at the man’s head, squeezing the trigger in the same fluid motion – just as, beside him, Athena did the same.
The soldier was hit instantly by both bursts of gunfire. He died instantly, as a bullet passed through his brain, but remained standing as more bullets pummeled his body, before finally dropping forward on his mangled, disfigured face. Behind him, another soldier showed his head – only to sharply withdraw it as Reilly let loose with another round of fire that missed by inches.
Athena ran to Reilly and helped him to his feet, keeping her gun trained on the corner the whole time.
Reilly considered their options; he knew it was a hopeless cause. They were trapped.
Apparently the other members of his team knew it too, because when he looked back, the Hitman was staring back at him, a resigned look on his face. “This does not look good at all,” said KillerBee. Pancho, beside Adam, exclaimed, “Does not look good? Fuck my father’s blue Mexican balls, man, this is a fuck-ing disaster!”
Reilly did not respond. He was desperately trying to figure a way out of their present predicament. He assessed their options; run forward or backward, take their chances; or they could stay in one place and wait for more guards to arrive, and then they would be well and truly fucked up the ass.
It did not look good.
And then, just when it did not seem as though their predicament could get any worse…
For just as Pancho stepped out to loose another burst of fire down the corridor he and Hitman were covering, the soldiers down the corridor fired their own guns, at exactly the same time.
Pancho never really stood a chance.
A stream of bullets hit Pancho squarely in the chest, causing the Mexican to convulse violently as the bullets tore through his body. And then he fell, suddenly, as though he was a puppet whose strings had suddenly been cut.
“NOOO!” yelled the Hitman.
Reilly was moving forward even before he knew it, dropping his rifle and reaching out to Pancho. Hitman fired down the corridor, providing cover fire, as Reilly dropped to his knees beside Pancho’s immobile body. The Mexican’s chest was a bloody mess, but – amazingly – he was still alive. Putting his hands under Pancho’s armpits, Reilly dragged him back to the relative safety of their corridor, as Aphrodite moved forward to assist Adam. Behind Reilly, Athena and KillerBee were firing at more soldiers, trying desperately to hold them off.
Reilly looked down at Pancho. The soldier was fighting even to draw breath. He was obviously in severe pain. “Hold on, soldier,” said Reilly reassuringly. “It’s going to be all right.”
Pancho smiled, revealing blood-stained teeth. “Don’t lie to me, Poseidon.”
Reilly gently said, “You know, Pancho, I’ve always wondered. What did the Mexican say to the Eskimo?”
Pancho smiled even wider and replied, “I have absolutely no idea. Nobody’s ever asked me that before.”
And in spite of himself, Reilly laughed.
Pancho’s eyes were becoming gradually unfocused, staring at the ceiling. “Look to the Heavens,” whispered the dying man.
“Yeah,” whispered Reilly patronizingly.
“No,” whispered Pancho. “Look up.”
They were saved.
When the two groups of Special Forces guards finally stepped out into the corridor that had been known to hold the intruders, they were surprised to find the corridor totally deserted.
Except for one man, slumped against a wall.
The leader of the Special Forces, a tall, mean-looking man, stepped forward, un-holstering his Sig-Sauer pistol. He took three steps toward Pancho.
Pancho, with a huge effort, sat up straighter and smiled at the guards. “Hey, do you guys want to hear about what the Mexican said to the – ”
The lead guard lifted his pistol and shot Pancho between the eyes.
As the dead man became limp, his right hand fell out from behind his back, where it had been partially hidden. Out from his hand rolled three black, cylindrical objects.
Hand grenades, with the pins pulled out.
The leader of the guards never even got a chance to shout a warning before the three grenades on the floor went off in all their explosive ferocity and blew him, Pancho’s body and the rest of the Special Forces men to Kingdom come.
Up in the air vents, crawling behind Athena, KillerBee, Aphrodite and the Hitman, Mitch “Poseidon” Reilly heard the grenades go off behind him, felt the heat and the force of the blast flow through the vents, and knew what that meant.
Pancho was gone.
They were five left.
In the tight, cramped space they moved, trying to make as little noise as possible. As the five of them crawled on their bellies in the air vents, Reilly’s mind wandered back…
After leaving the office of General Fairmont, Mitch Reilly had gone to the only other person he could think of. The only other person he could trust in the higher echelons of the military.
Retired General Joseph McKillian, living legend of the United States military, respected teacher and mentor, and second father to Mitch Reilly.
Reilly had sent a message to McKillian, saying that they needed to meet and that he had important information. When McKillian had shown up, Reilly had told him all he knew – from the rumors of the facility and the secret within, the removal of those who dared to speak of it, and the suspicious behavior of General Fairmont.
When he finished, Reilly had expected shock from McKillian. Outrage even. But the retired legend had sighed tiredly and said: “I cannot help you, Mitchell.”
“But you don’t understand…” Reilly had protested desperately.
McKillian had cut him off. “Go home, Mitchell. The grounds you’re walking are dangerous. I do not want anything to happen to you. I can tell you that I do not know of any such institution, but if it is true, then I can only say that the information you are talking about is strictly classified and you are not – ”
“ – authorized to have access to it,” Reilly had finished bitterly. “I know.”
“Mitchell, I’m sorry, but – ”
Not even waiting for the man to finish his sentence, Reilly had walked out of the room, feeling terribly betrayed.
That information is strictly classified and you are not authorized to have access to it. Bullshit.
The retired General would not help him. And so Reilly decided on the last option.
If you want something done, you have to do it yourself.
Mitch Reilly’s mind came back to the present.
Fixed in his ear was an earpiece he had taken from the soldier he and Athena had cut down. From it he could hear the various groups of enemy guards shouting and barking orders:
“Gamma group and Psi group down! Killed by grenades in Level Six! Request – ”
“ – No visuals on the intruders! They’ve just vanished – ”
“ – Alpha group! Get down to level five! Repeat – ”
“Wait! I hear something above us!”
Reilly froze. Then the voice came back on in his earpiece with renewed intensity.
“The air vents! They’re in the air vents!”
Shit. They were made.
“Get down from the vents!” he shouted to his teammates ahead of him. The five of them descended from the vents into a room.
Only to be met with gunfire from the guards waiting there.
KillerBee was pumped full of metal even before his feet touched the floor. His lifeless body performed a kind of grotesque macabre dance as the numerous bullets punctured him. He fell on the floor with a resounding crash.
Athena, Aphrodite, Hitman and Reilly landed somewhat better. The Hitman’s gun, indeed, was up and firing even before his feet touched the ground. Reilly, Athena and Aphrodite’s guns joined his a second later, and bullets flew back and forth. The guards in the room were good – certainly better than the average soldier – but against the combined power of Reilly, Athena Aphrodite and the Hitman, they were woefully outclassed. In a few seconds all of them were down, lying in a rapidly expanding pool of their own blood.
“ – They’re in the north wing – ”
Shit. Their pursuers were coming. Reilly turned to his companions, three out of the initial six.
“Alright. Let’s get out of here.”
They made for the door, and in a few seconds they were running again, as they had been doing for most of the night.
As they ran, Reilly kept his ear tuned to the earpiece in his ear. Reports of their would-be captors still flowed in.
“Omega team is down! The subjects – ”
“I’m on them! I can see – ”
“Delta team, hold your position! I repeat, hold your – ”
And then Reilly heard a new voice, one that chilled his blood and caused him to stop in his tracks.
“Attention all units. The suspects in question have stolen a document of prime importance. You are authorized to use whatever means necessary to retrieve it. No matter what, they cannot be allowed to leave this complex. To make myself clear, when you come upon them, kill them.”
Reilly could not move for shock.
He knew that voice. He could still remember the last thing that voice had said to him.
That information is strictly classified and you are not authorized to have access to it.
Oh, yes, Reilly knew that voice. The unmistakable voice that had just told an unknown number of pissed-off trigger-happy soldiers to kill him on sight.
It was the voice of Retired General Joseph McKillian, living legend of the United States military, respected teacher and mentor, and second father to Mitch Reilly.
(part 3 here )